Friday, December 16, 2016

LMB to allow nine Mexican-Americans per team in '17

One of the most contentious issues in Mexican baseball in 2016 has been the classification of American ballplayers of Mexican descent.  There have been a number of such players in the Mexican League over the years, of course, but the topic came to a boil last summer when Monterrey Sultanes owner Jose "Pepe" Maiz (pictured) unloaded criticism on the Tijuana Toros for carrying what he felt was an inordinate amount of Mexican-Americans on their roster en route to the LMB Championship Series against eventual champion Puebla.

Some observers mighr write Maiz' comments off as sour grapes in the wake of Monterrey's loss to Tijuana in the North Division title series.  However, they served to bring to surface a schism of sorts that has bubbled beneath the surface for some time between owners who can afford to develop domestic talent without relying on extraneros and other owners lacking the resources to go that route, needing to import players to be competitive on the field.   The rift led to a handful of teams threatening to leave the league altogether and a move to force out LMB president Plinio Escalante.

With all that, the Liga has decided that for the 2017 season, each of the loop's 16 teams will be allowed to list up to nine Mexican-Americans on their roster as "domestic" players while maintaining the limit of other foreign players to six per club.  To promote the development of domestic talent, teams will be required to carry at least two Mexican-born rookies during the season.  "Mexican first" owners such as Alfredo Harp Helu of the Mexico City Diablos Rojos and Quintana Roo Tigres owner Carlos Peralta (whose father Alejo was reknowned for fielding all-Mexican nines during their own days in the nation's capital) are likely unhappy with the compromise, but less well-heeled franchises will be better able to address on-field needs by bringing in American-born Mexicanos.  Still, there may always be tensions between those wanting to upgrade the overall quality of Mexican League baseball by importing players and others who believe the LMB should be more devoted to developing domestic talent.

The 72-year-old Maiz is himself an example of a homegrown baseball product.  As a 12-year-old left fielder, he helped Monterrey become the first team from outside the USA to win the Little League World Series at Williamsport, Pennsylvnia in 1957.  Maiz also played in the 1959 Pony League World Championships (leading the tournament in batting) and the 1961 Colt League World Series before going on to earn a business degree at the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education and working for his father's construction firm, which he has headed since the elder Maiz' death in 2006.  The younger Maiz bought the Sultanes in 1986 and was inducted into Mexican baseball's Salon de la Fama in 2002.  He also served as the director of Mexican Little League Baseball in 2008 and 2009.